Weekly Update from Rep. Denham - January 18, 2013
This week I was named Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee for the 113th Congress and I am honored to have been selected to Chair this important Subcommittee. Rail transportation is critical for America’s economy, and I look forward to the opportunity to look for more cost-effective and innovative approaches to passenger and freight rail service in order to generate American jobs and promote economic development, along with ensuring that our pipelines are safe and we’re transporting hazardous materials responsibly.
In this new capacity, I had a positive meeting with a California High Speed Rail CEO Jeff Morales and Board Chair Dan Richard about the project. In what I hope will be the first of many meetings with them, I received an update on the business plan and changes made last year to bring down the cost, address the volatile, fluctuating ridership numbers, and revised cost estimates of the entire project. The meeting was a chance to hear directly from the California High Speed Rail Authority and I’m glad to know we are all on the same page in that taxpayers should under no circumstance whatsoever fund ongoing operational costs of the project. I am committed to holding the project accountable and ensuring transparency for taxpayers who will be paying for the cost of the project in future generations. I believe there must be a disciplined plan that ensures accountability for taxpayer dollars, instills confidence in private investors, is on time and off of ag lands. Without funding or a viable business plan, projects like the California High Speed Rail should be delayed, and the money should be put towards shovel ready projects that will get people back to work today, not four or five years after the so-called stimulus dollars were supposed to create these jobs immediately.
Tuesday morning, my colleagues in the House of Representatives put our priorities in order by reading the U.S. Constitution aloud on the House Floor. Our Constitutional principles remain timeless and it is fitting that we start the 113th Congress by reading the Constitution together. The Constitution is the written consent the American people gave to their government to protect individual liberty and maintain limited government. All legislation considered by Congress should adhere to the Constitution and the finite list of powers it grants to the federal government. In the House, every bill introduced must be accompanied by a Constitutional justification. I had the honor of reading excerpts from the 14th Amendment, which greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans, as well as from the 15th Amendment, which granted African American men the right to vote. You can watch video of the reading on my Facebook page at http://facebook.com/RepJeffDenham.
This week the House unanimously passed a bill I sponsored, the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, H.R. 219, which is the culmination of my work over two years as Chairman overseeing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The bill, which passed with unanimous, bipartisan support, will cut costs, speed up response times, and streamline federal disaster recovery programs. These changes will help communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy and all future storms put their lives back together. By providing FEMA with the tools necessary to improve recovery efforts, we will save hundreds of millions of dollars and ensure our states and communities can rebuild faster and with greater protection from future events, all the while providing cost certainty for taxpayers. A video of my remarks in support of the FEMA reforms are available here.
On Tuesday, I voted to send the necessary and appropriate resources to help families and businesses recover from the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Congress is responsible for providing emergency relief funding for critical housing and infrastructure needs, repairs to damaged veterans medical facilities and necessary transit, small business loans and recovery aid for businesses of all sizes. The House-passed version of the Sandy relief bill did not contain any earmarks as in previous Senate versions, and all of the funding is designated to currently declared emergency projects and communities. I voted for every amendment offered to offset the emergency funding with spending cuts within federal funding for 2013, and I will continue to look for savings in the upcoming debt ceiling fight and in future appropriations bills. I have consistently voted to cut spending by trillions of dollars since arriving in Congress and will continue to advocate for a balanced budget and to get our spiraling debt under control.
You have probably heard President Obama speaking about his new initiatives that go around Congress by executive decree to alter federal gun ownership and ammunition policies. You can read all 23 executive orders he has proposedhere. I will continue to meet with local law enforcement in the weeks ahead to discuss the issue and their concerns, with the goal of determining what needs to be changed, if anything, to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, and make our families and communities safer. As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, I will carefully review any control proposal put before the 113th Congress, while making sure any measure does not infringe upon the rights of Second Amendment.
Finally, for those of you who will be in the nation’s capital on Monday for the 57th Presidential Inauguration, I am pleased to extend an invitation to an open house reception at my D.C. office immediately following the Inauguration. Please join my staff and other constituents for beverages and snacks until 2:00pm. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can be of any assistance to you during your visit.
Please continue to let me know what you think and provide feedback on my website. I also appreciate hearing from you through myFacebook and Twitter, where you can find regular updates about my work at home in the Valley and in Washington.
Have a great weekend!